On Tuesday afternoon, the Texas Longhorns didn’t hold any commitments from defensive linemen. At defensive tackle, things were moving slowly while the coaching staff works to close with Alfred Collins and Princely Umanmielen.
And then, within the space of about 21 hours, everything changed for the Longhorns as position coach Oscar Giles secured commitments from Houston Cy Ridge defensive tackle Vernon Broughton and Draper (Utah) defensive end Van Fillinger.
The commitments position Texas for a strong finish in defensive line recruiting with B-backer prospect Prince Dorbah of Highland Park already in the fold. It’s not shaping up as a potentially elite class at this time, even if the Horns add one or both of Collins and Umanmielen, but it is now on track to fill needs.
It’s also important to understand the type of prospects that head coach Tom Herman and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando like to recruit along the defensive line — players who can fill out to around 300 pounds or so without losing their athleticism. Players with high upsides and positive trajectories instead of recruits who are already maxed out.
Those players are recruited to fill a specific role in the odd front that Orlando likes to run. The most important task is holding the point of attack and anchoring against the run on first and second downs. If that doesn’t happen, then there’s no chance for Orlando to use his aggressive blitzes in third-and-long situations. So that’s the bottom line.
Pass-rushing ability is a bonus, but Orlando tends to rely more on stunting linebackers and blitzing defensive backs to fill in there, rather than asking those 300-pounder who typically play 4i on early downs to scream off the edge.
However, Charles Omenihu was able to do both last season and it’s possible that Broughton and Fillinger emerge as strong pass rushers at Texas, particularly using bullrushes.
Broughton is a top-100 prospect who spent most of his early high school career focusing on basketball, so he’s still raw as a football player. Fortunately for the Longhorns, Giles has a long track record of successfully molding raw prospects into stars in burnt orange and white. Brian Orakpo, anyone?
Here’s the evaluation of Broughton from Burnt Orange Nation’s Joe Hamilton:
Broughton displays elite speed and great bend with astounding flexibility, which allows him to not only wreak havoc on the interior but also coming off the edge if asked to do so. He plays with active feet and a high motor in-between whistles and that allows him to beat offensive linemen off the snap and get in the backfield in a hurry when he’s in his zone. Broughton has a long build with a ton of room to add some weight and a substantial amount of muscle, which will be crucial to have at the next level playing inside for the Horns.
He’s going to come in and fill gaps and shoot through them as well; Broughton is capable of being a terrific run-stopper and pass-rusher.
The top-100 recruit has displayed his phenomenal burst and quickness in several competitive outings since last fall. Whether it being an in-game performance or at the host of camps that he’s participated in this offseason, Broughton shined brighter than most. Broughton put up some staggering numbers at The Opening regional event in Houston earlier this year, casting a 40-yard dash time of 5.03 seconds and a 4.75 20-yard shuttle, which is more than impressive for a teenager of his caliber and goes to show that there’s room for improvement in that department. Broughton will be able to fly with the best of them by the end of his college career.
The question with Broughton is whether he ends up playing outside as a defensive end or inside as the nose tackle. Some of that may simply depend on his lower-body strength — he doesn’t have the thick calves and quads that so many nose tackles possess, but that doesn’t necessarily disqualify him from playing that position. Poona Ford hardly had a typical build, either.
A consensus four-star prospect, Broughton is ranked as the No. 70 prospect nationally, the No. 6 defensive tackle, and the No. 10 player in Texas, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Fillinger is a 6’3.5, 250-pounder who saw his stock explode this spring after a strong junior season — in the late February update of the 247Sports Composite rankings, the Utah product shot up 549 spots in the rankings. Since then, he’s moved up another 140 spots.
So the rankings trajectory for Fillinger speaks to how quickly he’s improved in a short period of time, which fits with the recruiting strategy of this coaching staff. Fillinger also caught the attention of programs like LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, and USC, so this wasn’t a slam-dunk recruitment for Texas, even though Fillinger remains a consensus three-star prospect.
What stands out about Fillinger with his testing numbers is his shuttle time of 4.25 seconds, which is excellent for someone of his size. He ran a sub-5.00 40-yard dash and posted a vertical leap of almost 32 inches. So his best attribute in terms of athleticism is that short shuttle time — he’s agile enough to change direction to track down opposing running backs and quarterbacks.
The positive thing about Fillinger as it regards his transition to Texas is that he already plays inside for Draper, so it won’t be a large adjustment for him to move slightly more outside to the 4i defensive end position.
He also knows how to win, as his Draper won a state championship last year as Fillinger compiled 71 tackles and five sacks.
The recruiting surge also illustrates an important point about recruiting — all it takes is a couple prospects to commit to start seriously changing the narrative about a particular position or a class as a whole. And Broughton and Fillinger just changed the narrative.